Issue of May 22, 2016
Mt. Province

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More than just a Renewed Resolve

The discovery of a massive logging activity right within a crucial spot for biodiversity in the Cordillera is a heavy blow to the thrusts of concerned government agencies, local government units, and the communities for forest protection and conservation. It is a blatant form of disregard and insensitivity given the universal struggle to save the environment and its inhabitants from the grave effects of climate change.

We needed an eye in the sky to uncover a sad truth, thanks to the aerial inspection conducted as part of the National Greening Program monitoring and Bantay Gubat anti-illegal logging operation by the Environment officials together with the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 1 on May 12. Seeing it in photographs is just as shocking as when the group came across about five hectares of forest transformed into a logging site while hovering over Sitio Gutang, Barangay Balintaugan in Bauko, Mountain Province. Freshly cut and sawn pine timber were strewn like matchsticks around live trees still untouched by chainsaws.

The discovery is very disheartening that it makes us wonder what part of the call for vigilance against activities that endanger forest covers and the implementation of environment measures we don’t get right, and why many lack consideration for others or cannot contain their greed.

Worse, not even one took notice and got alarmed enough to report an activity of such magnitude to authorities. While the site might be far from inhabited areas, the sound of chainsaws and motorized vehicles could not help but reverberate in the mountains. To reach the sitio, would it be possible for those behind the logging activity to go unnoticed when they should pass the same routes that the inhabitants use, and for a time remain undetected?

The operation was also too massive to pass for logging for a community member’s housing purposes. We can’t help thinking if favors have changed hands or that people simply didn’t care.

The lapse cannot be denied. While we find solace from the order of Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit to all 22 punong barangays of the town to craft programs for environment and watershed protection in the soonest possible time to avoid a repeat of the incident, it is quite not reassuring. Don’t get us wrong: we never once doubted our ability to come up with sound laws and craft model resource management practices. But like a bushfire that is quickly lit but also quickly burns away, we fear these efforts and policies will not hold flame long without walking the talk and thinking sustainable for good.

We also hope to remind that the role of barangays as frontliners in forest protection and all other activities in its jurisdiction is basic. Because we care, we suggest empowering the 22 Bauko barangays, officials and residents alike, and all similarly situated areas for that matter, not just by clothing them with authority and proper gear in the protection of their territories, but also with awareness and understanding why it is important to conserve trees in the first place.

In keeping with the hope and call for change generated by the May 9 elections, we challenge those who got fresh mandates at public service to lead the way from being back at square one in the matter of forest protection and responsible use of resources.



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